Another crowd turns out to talk revitalization

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

Members of the Sweet Home community agreed to form a committee and several subcommittees to hammer out and implement a plan for downtown revitalization last week.

About 126 attended a second community meeting on revitalization, under the direction of consultant John Morgan, on Thursday night. They broke into 16 groups to identify goals, guiding principles, players and action.

“We need to fill up the buildings,” Sweet Home resident Katie Kohl said at a table surrounded by residents working on developing specific goals for the community.

Somehow, she said, there needs to be a commitment to shop in Sweet Home, to fill up the buildings with businesses and community members.

“We should have a common theme,” resident Don Austin said.

“How about just to remove the junk and garbage,” resident T.R. Price suggested.

Kohl said the town needs activities for teens and a coffee shop open into the early evening.

At another table, discussing specific actions, Julie Wolfsong said, “I talk to people who don’t even know Sweet Home exists.” She asked how Sweet Home can get people to know “we’re here.”

Her table listed among proposed actions, identifying a target market and developing promotions using cooperative advertising. The table also suggested a local demographics study and developing financial plans for investors who might come to Sweet Home.

Among the top ideas suggested through the process were developing a marketing plan, hiring an economic development coordinator and maintaining and enhancing the values in downtown Sweet Home, as well as improving appearances, enforcing codes and providing education and training to local business people.

More showed up to this meeting than the last, Morgan said, but he asked, “Is there a commitment for the community to move ahead with a downtown revitalization effort? Something has to happen after tonight.”

The effort will take time and political and physical energy, Morgan said. He recommended a core steering committee to keep the effort going, with several subcommittees that look at financing, planning, programming and marketing and report to the steering committee.

“This usually ends up being a function of an entity,” Morgan said, coordinating a number of groups so efforts aren’t duplicated.

Resident Cliff Oden suggested that the Sweet Home Economic Development Group oversee the process.

“I’m a business owner, and I passionately care about Sweet Home,” Beth Lambert told the crowd. “This is where it (revitalization efforts) always stops. This is where it ends – Unless you have someone who is passionate about this and cares about making this plan work.”

Sweet Home needs a full-time person to administer the plan, she said.

Michael Astalis, president of Radio Fiesta Network, the new owner of KFIR radio station, and a developer in the Los Angeles areas, offered some ideas.

“I think I’m going to become the speaking voice for the town,” he said, introducing himself. He recommended hiring the best consulting group or person, someone with a track record.

He suggested doing what they’ve done elsewhere rather than reinventing the wheel.

“We don’t have the time,” he said. Once done, investors come.

Astalis said Sweet Home needs to maintain its natural beauty and capitalize on its logging tradition, he said, using that to draw people from all over the world.

Build on that, he said. “You guys don’t know what you have out here. It’s the Wild West. Let other people enjoy it. Let them visit and leave their money here.”

To do that, he emphasized, “hire the best.”

Ron Moore, president of the Sweet Home Economic Development Group, said SHEDG has been down this road before. The organization paid an economic development coordinator for several years, but businesses never took advantage of it, he said.

However, Moore said, “Our group is very much in support of what’s going on.

I think we’re onto a new twist,” Moore said, and SHEDG is willing to partner with the Chamber of Commerce, the city and others to see this process through. “We want to make sure we have a very definable way of making that happen.”

The effort will continue in the next couple of weeks.

“We did get several people that signed up for various groups that we will be convening in the next couple of weeks,” City Manager Craig Martin said. That will happen after the information gathered during this meeting can be assembled.

“Obviously, we still need to flesh out what might occur under the auspices of these committees,” Martin said, and the city will continue to work through the process to develop actions and goals, things the groups would like to pursue.

The city and SHEDG co-sponsored these meetings.